There's a moment in the Golf Boys' music video Oh Oh Oh, which has had more than 1.8 million YouTube hits since its debut right before the U.S. Open, when Ben Crane, the Tour player and GB front man, gazes into the low, gray suburban Dallas sky, tilts his helmeted head and, with his mouth slightly ajar, achieves a look of complete confusion. He says nothing.
"The director told me, 'Don't act. Be,' " Crane says.
That three-word acting mantra resonated with Crane. The director, Sam Martin, was giving Crane license to achieve the perplexed state that comes naturally to him.
In his effort to sort through life's confusion—he asks questions and seeks answers like a fairway-hiking Socrates/David Sedaris—you find the genius that is Ben Crane. Here he is anticipating his journey through Heathrow Airport in London next week, when he arrives for the British Open.
"What's with the luggage carts over there?" Crane asked last week. He was at the Travelers Championship, in a town house off the 9th green of the TPC River Highlands course he had rented with his wife and two kids. "You get the luggage on there, and you start pushing the thing, and whatever direction you want it to go, it wants to go the other way."
"It's like those horses you rent in the state parks that just want to go back to the barn," a visitor said.
"Exactly!" Crane said. He uses a lot of exclamation points. Maybe you wouldn't guess that. His shaved head and placid face and low-key on-course demeanor give no hint at the wildly enthusiastic freethinker who lives deep within him. His Hugo Boss Tour wear allows him to graze at the player dining buffets at your better Tour events without the other lodge brothers knowing that there's a renegade in their midst. "It's as if the cart has a magnet to take it back to its docking station," Crane said. "I don't want to sound like the ugly American, but we gave the British, what, a 500-year head start? A thousand years? Shouldn't they be ahead of us?"
Don't get him wrong. He is not the ugly American. You want proof? Last year, when the Open was at St. Andrews, Crane stayed at the Old Course Hotel, hard by the Road Hole, and he found the ice supplies to be fine. (He was, though, less impressed by the water pressure, which is a little odd, because the hotel is owned by Herb Kohler, the faucet king.) If you need more proof that Crane—native son of Portland, now residing outside Dallas—is not the ugly American, you should know that he's mad about British Open golf. Loves it, despite his decidedly spotty record in it: three missed cuts, one 11th.
He has probably lost money, collectively, in his four British Open appearances, and still the tournament is his favorite all year, or cofavorite with the PGA. When a pro can lose money and be O.K. with it, that tells you something.
Crane, who is 35 and of Scottish ancestry, developed his Open infatuation in the 1980s. His father, Doug, the founder of a successful Portland advertising and media company, brought home an early large-screen TV. On British Open Saturdays, little Ben would put on Dave Marr and the ABC telecast in the very early morning, position himself about a foot away from the box and watch Greg Norman and Tom Watson the way the neighboring kids might have watched the Smurfs and Spider-Man. When Sandy Lyle won the '85 Open at Royal St. George's, Crane was there, in a manner of speaking.